For each country, LinkedIn surveyed 500 buyers and 500 salespeople and sales managers. For the United States 2020 survey, Market Cube, a research panel company, conducted two online surveys in November and December 2019. Two sample groups were surveyed: sales professionals and decision makers. The first was a sample of 507 salespeople and sales managers from the United States who primarily work in B2B sales. The second was a sample of 502 business decision makers from the U.S. who have influence over purchasing decisions at B2B companies.
Key Enduring Trends
Long term metrics are stepping to the forefront
Understanding data and analytics is increasingly important tool for survival, and sales organizations are embracing long-term metrics of sales success, such as customer satisfaction.
When asked to identify how sales reps should be measured, four metrics were selected by more than a third of respondents.
Forty-three percent selected customer satisfaction, the most popular metric, according to the survey.
Another 40% selected customer retention/attrition.
The data-driven sales org is on the rise
Sales organizations are putting data to work before the sale. Large percentages of salespeople say they are using data to prospect:
56% say they are using data to select accounts to target,
49% are using data to select industries to target.
“Data is becoming more and more important for the sales organization. The key to this data will be how it is used during the selling process and the customer journey. The most effective organizations will be able to aggregate, govern and leverage this data to give insights to both past sales efforts and to future forecasts. They will be able to match their process and organizational strengths to that of the customer buying process and specific needs. Having access to timely and relevant data will be key to success. Sales organizations with a clear data strategy for their go-to-market efforts reported that 11% more of their sellers made goal and they won forecasted deals 8% more of the time.” —Joseph DiMisa, Sales Effectiveness and Rewards Leader, Korn Ferry
Sales technology is transforming the sales org
When face-to-face meetings are limited, sales technology has increasingly moved to the forefront of how sales professionals strengthen existing relationships and begin to build new ones.
Trust gets deals done
“Top sales organizations were already making a shift toward emphasizing trust, adopting sales technology, and prioritizing existing customers, but this crisis has accelerated the need tenfold. Trust is quickly moving from face-to-face meetings to a sales organization’s ability to understand a client’s pain points and quickly identify a solution. In today’s evolving world, customers are also changing by becoming more skilled at researching a solution, finding the ballpark pricing, and quickly identifying most of the pros and cons of a product. A sales organization needs to differentiate themselves by creating better thought leadership and data-driven insights to help build trust and loyalty.” —Joseph DiMisa, Sales Effectiveness and Rewards Leader, Korn Ferry
With salespeople and buyers agreeing about the value of trust, it’s comforting that our survey indicates that successful salespeople do win the trust of buyers— 88% agree that the salespeople they ultimately buy from are “trusted advisors.”
Building a sales team with the right skills is challenging
Active listening is the skill that buyers prize most in salespeople, but managers are not prioritizing this trait in their hiring.
Buyers rank “active listening” (42%) as the No. 1 skill or trait they want from salespeople, which is a disconnect with what sales managers seek in hiring.
LinkedIn plays an expanded role for both buyers and sellers
salespeople see LinkedIn, in particular, as delivering unique data to help inform sales strategy.
Sixty-three percent of sales professionals said LinkedIn provided unique data.
For buyers, three-quarters of respondents agree or or strongly agree that it’s important for a seller to have an informative LinkedIn profile, and 60% say that reaching out via LinkedIn impacts their thought process positively.
The survey found that LinkedIn is the platform where salespeople are most active with 84% being active on it. That’s up from 70% just two years ago. Additionally, top performers are significantly more likely to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator (43% to 29%) and more likely to be “very active” on LinkedIn (56% to 48%).
LinkedIn’s survey provides some insight into a handful of things that successful salespeople—in this case reps who reported they reached 125% of their quota or above—do differently from their counterparts. Here’s what we learned:
Top-performing salespeople were more likely than other salespeople to use two sales technologies in particular: enterprise communication (59% vs 43%) and sales intelligence tools (49% vs 41%).
Additionally, top performers were significantly more likely to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator (43% to 29%) and more likely to be “very active” on LinkedIn (56% to 48%).
Top-performing salespeople possess a higher confidence level in CRM data than their counterparts. Of the top group, 53% are very confident, and of the non-top only 32% are very confident. These figures may imply that the top-performing group puts in the time to keep their CRM data up to date, because they believe it’s crucial to helping them exceed quota.
All salespeople spend time with their managers. How they spend their time together differs. Top-performing salespeople are more likely (33% to 26%) to spend time with their managers in training.
They are also more likely to receive training from outside sales experts by a margin of 46% to 38%. The embrace of training makes sense in an effort to keep pace in a fast-changing world
In three main cases, top-performing salespeople are more likely to consult data than their counterparts:
evaluating patterns from closed-lost business (56%–45%),
evaluating patterns from closed-won business (49%–40%), and
selecting geolocations to target (41%–33%).
This implies these reps are curious to learn what’s working and what’s not so they can optimize their approach.
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